My disabilities, generally considered ‘hidden’ or ‘invisible’, are feeling pretty visible this month as last week I managed to very (un)gracefully flip backwards on a sun lounger and paralyse my right hand. Sunbathing: it’s a dangerous sport! You’ll be pleased to know that my very pretty new bikini protected my modesty however it did little to help my now very floppy hand.
Paralysing parts of myself isn’t a huge deal; it’s the basis of my disability, can happen at any time, often relates to an injury and the paralysis always improves to some degree. Our bathroom cupboard has a stock of braces and splints that I may or may not have borrowed from a hospital and am refusing to give back because it means waiting 6 weeks for a new one every time I paralyse something and it could have repaired itself by then anyway! I’ve also ‘borrowed’ a pair of crutches and an absurdly comfortable wheelchair cushion.
Ahem, moving away from my semi-kleptomaniacal tendencies…!
These braces and splints are the ‘visible’ part of my disability. They’re the part that strangers see and adapt their behaviour to: helpfully opening doors, picking things up and even cutting up food for me. These are things I struggle with normally but the wrist splints are an immediate visual cue that gets me the help I need and thus I have a great affection for them.
Plus, since almost everyone asks ‘what happened?!’ and ‘it’s a long story; I have a complex neurological condition, mixed with a connective tissue disorder, let me take an hour to explain…’ isn’t the best answer, I get to have fun coming up with stories about the exciting accident that hurt my wrists!
As effective a visual aid as braces and splints are they’re also overwhelmingly beige! With the occasional black piece thrown in to spice it up. The most colourful and funky women I know are disabled- and they’re seriously stylish with it! Yet every aid I’ve ever been handed by a doctor or hospital was the same sickly shade of vomitus beige.
Boring. Bland. Lame. Dull. Dated.
Beige doesn’t have the best rap.
As a teenager I managed to fully paralyse both of my arms, which, since they tend to slip from my shoulder sockets anyway, was great fun for gravity and not so much for me. My occupational therapist saw this as an exciting challenge and arrived at my hospital bed looking like she’d found the Holy Grail. Unfortunately it was not a glittering chalice she produced but an orthopaedic dual tension double shoulder support brace, the ugliness of which has never been matched in my eyes and I pray to God never will be. Made of a thick, beige neoprene with even thicker ribbing on the edges, clearly no thought had been given as to whether it went over or under clothes. Since my entire wardrobe consisted of floaty vintage dresses it looked so hideous that, threat of dislocation or not, there was no way it was coming near me. Anyone approaching me with it received such a glare they almost shrivelled up on the spot!
However, whilst they’re an equally boring beige colour, I don’t feel the same way about my wrist splints. Being able to wear colourful clothes means a lot to me, as does being able to colour coordinate them (never more than three colours in one outfit is my rule!) and beige does go with everything…
Calming. Soft. Pale. Warm. Neutral.
Beige has its plus points too.
Yes, I have a great affection for my splints and their ability to help me gain assistance but it’s also nice that they blend in from a distance and I don’t have to answer constant questions. And, obviously, I don’t have to get a new chest of draws with splints in every colour under the sun just so I can coordinate them!
But really, come on medical supply makers, maybe we could stretch to just a few more colours?!